When Mandy reset the jump course, she pulled out some of the flower box fillers, bought some new flowers, and set them out around the ring. In total, there were 4 of these guys hanging out in our arena for our jump lesson this week. They were probably 3′ wide and topped out around 1′, with the flowers.
So they were small, but they required a LOT of accuracy. I had trotted and cantered over them a bit over the weekend, so when Mandy gave us the option to canter a little course with them or trot (or even walk), I opted to canter. May was pretty good and honest (which is a HUGE improvement over how we used to feel about skinny objects with no standards).
The objective was not only to get over the center of each flower box, but to do so on a shorter step with good impulsion and no change in rhythm, and to get our leads. So… you know… all the basics of jumping haha. Our first course was pretty good, so Mandy added another element, after the 3rd flower box, we were to make a relatively sharp turn and bounce through three 2′ cavalettis set on a standard stride before making another sharp-ish turn to get over the last flower box.
Again, the objective was to NOT CHANGE anything. Don’t go slow over the flower boxes and then GUN it through the bounce. At this point, we started really honing in on May giving me more prompt, correct, simple lead changes. The goal was, if we landed on the incorrect lead, to quickly come back down to the walk and then pick up the correct lead and reestablish our rhythm.
Honestly though? This also went super well. I had to REALLY fight the urge to run at the bounces, but they rode fine because our impulsion was good. IMAGINE THAT.
So we upped the ante again. This time, we added in the blue boxes.
This course started over a flower box, left turn to a blue box, another left turn to a flower box, broken line to a blue box. Sharpish left turn to the bounces, and ending up over a flower box. The slightly larger boxes forced us to really keep our impulsion. While this course went OK, we missed the right lead transition between three and four.
So the next time through, we reversed the whole thing. This was interesting because it put the bounces much earlier in the course, establishing the step before the boxes. Annnnnd it went ok. Until May completely blew off my canter, walk, canter transition after the hot pink flower box to reestablish the right lead. Soooo we had to do it again, and a stronger half halt and faster reaction time smoothed out the difference.
It was at this point, where I really felt like May was locking into the idea of swapping her leads over these skinny little obstacles. So when we moved on to an actual course, I was pretty hopeful that it would go well.
The course was definitely interesting and included an element we haven’t done before. Jump 1 was the yellow flower box. Then, we looped left to the blue box. We then had to fade out towards the rail to get a good line in to 3. Mandy told me to do the waiting 6 strides to the oxer at 4. We jumped 5 then had to bend the line to 6. We didn’t set a specific number of strides for that one because they were so far apart that with the bend.. they were pretty much unrelated.
Then… we had the longest loop ever to get to 7a and 7b. And these guys were on an ANGLE. Below is a picture of what they actually looked like when you squared up to them. Now May and I have jumped stuff at angles a lot. It’s actually one of my favorite party tricks (that my trainer tends to hate because most of the time, your horse has a better chance of clearing a fence if you actually get square to it. BUT I DIGRESS).
So I knew I wanted to be a bit conservative and VERY clear coming up to that last line. However, I felt like all the exercises before that line set us up for success. I felt like I could maintain my line, rhythm, and impulsion to both be really clear about the line without risking the dreaded 3rd stride chip in the combination.
Overall, I was REALLY happy with how it went. 1 to 2 could’ve rode better. She just never really settled coming to 2. But 3 and 4 were AMAZING. I felt like we easily could have stepped up for the 5 strides or settled for the 6. She settled great without losing her impulsion, and PINGED over that oxer (set at a solid 2’9″).
She jumped 5 great too, but got a bit strong and argumentative in the bending line. Hindsight being 20/20, I should’ve half halted stronger at the onset and then just settled coming down the line, but she did soften eventually and jumped out of the line ok.
I let her cruise for a bit in the long loop to the combination. It’s very hard for May to maintain that super rocked back gait, so I gave her a bit of a breather. In hind sight, I should have continued to counter bend her a bit, even on the longer rein. She did want to pop her shoulder right as I went to collect her. So the distance to the 2 stride came up a bit funky (I think she was also surprised by the angle), but again, our impulsion was there, so I just kicked on and she jumped out great.
The thing I am most proud of? The girl landed on all of her leads. This tells me that our balance and impulsion really were as good as they felt. We did end up doing the first 2 jumps again (hilariously the smallest fences on the course) in order to smooth out that bit of scramble. They rode great and May was SUPER soft coming around to the box.
I will say that the next time I rode, we practiced our flat work and then I worked on just getting our changes of lead over the flower boxes. And even though we were in our plain snaffle for Dressage, she got her lead every.single.time I asked. Pony got big pats and a hack around the field after that.